Word on the street is: beer is totally passé in Mexico. Young urban hipsters in Mexico City are off Corona and Tecate and onto something new – only, in this case, it’s not so new at all. Pulque was the drink of their Aztec ancestors, and now it’s back.
It’s not so different from the craft cocktail happening on the northern side of the border, with United States’ hipster youth looking to the past and traditional spirits like gin and bourbon for modern inspiration. Pulque, a frothy beer-like beverage produced from the sap of the blue maguey, has been a traditional drink for hundreds of years. But whereas the Aztecs reveled in its properties, Conquistadors shunned it and pulque gradually gained a reputation as a drink only for the poor and the elderly hanging on to old ways.
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Adding to the comparison, the Washington Post notes that a correspondent from the New York Sun in 1884 once wrote: “I have never seen so many drunken people as in the city of Mexico where the pulquerias are more frequent than gin palaces in London or gin mills in the Bowery. It is the bane of this favored land.”
But like the spirit of Pabst Blue Ribbon incarnate, pulque is rising from the ashes of its bad reputation to find a new audience in youth exploring their heritage and past. “It is cooler than beer and a lot cheaper than tequila,” a 22-year-old design student and computer tech told the Post. “It’s old Mexico.” While it’s reported that pulquerias have rapidly dwindled in numbers, a rising interest could help to turn that around.
The biggest problem – as well as part of the allure – with pulque is that it cannot easily be imported or exported. The drink is delicate and ferments quickly, losing its properties at best and causing exploding cans at worst. It is the quintessential local drink. But with interest growing, we’re hoping to see some intrepid mixologists bring pulque stateside in the very near future.